This one is a question I can't seem to find an answer for. I do have a friend, a professional editor, who told me she saw no problem with me switching from "it" to "he" or "she" when referring to an animal in the situation I'm about to lay out, but I'd like to know if others feel the same way.
Here's my dilemma. I am writing a novel in which the main character has a cat. Its name is immediately known and I refer to it as "he" throughout the book. However, later in the book, my main character sees a horse in a pasture he decides he wants. I refer to it as "it" because he doesn't know the gender of the horse and there is no reference to its gender or name until later. Fast forward, and my main character has learned the horse is male and I reveal its name. Later, he buys the horse and often the horse's name is referenced in the book.
My question is this: Is it okay to refer to a particular animal as "it" and later switch to "he" or "she" once the gender is known, especially when the name is used at that point? Referring to an animal, especially one that is a pet, as "it" once the name is revealed feels very unnatural to me. I personally feel that it's okay to switch the pronouns once there is more known about the animal.
Here's a sample of what I'm talking about:
(My character sees the horse for the first time)
The blue roan stood out against the backdrop of snow like a moving painting, its mane and tail long and flowing like heavy strokes from a paintbrush.
Later, the horse's name is known (Braveheart):
Now, with the warmer weather, Braveheart spent most of his time in the pasture.
Your input is much appreciated! Thank you!